Turn the Page

Most kids love stories, whether they’re in book format, recited, or acted out. Take advantage of this love to create some fun activities for your family.

TELL A STORY

If you are creatively inclined (or even if you’re not!), make up a story. It can be simple or complicated, short or long, serious or silly. Ask your child for prompts on what should happen next, or what the characters would say or do. Take turns adding a scene. Stuck for ideas? Try using story cards or cubes to get the creative juices flowing. With cards and cubes, you let luck and the pictures inspire you to create or add to your story. Here are some sources for free printable cards and cubes:

If you create a story you’re particularly fond of, write it down and illustrate it with your child(ren)!

CREATE YOUR OWN STORY WALK

You may have seen or heard of story walks in parks nearby. Story walks are a way to encourage families and individuals to enjoy reading a story while also enjoying a walk through nature. Pages from a story book are encased in plastic, mounted, and spread out along a path. As families walk down the path, they can stop and read the next page of the story.

You can create your own story walk in your yard or nearby space. While organizations who create story walks seek for something durable and semi-permanent to mount their pages on, you don’t need to worry about that part. Instead, you can simply spread out the pages and hold them down with rocks or stakes.

While you can certainly take apart a book that you own, you may have better luck with one of these printable stories:

  • DLTK Mini-Books – a variety of short stories, perfect for preschoolers
  • Fun-a-Day – more mini books for preschoolers and kindergarteners
  • Love to Know – printable books for toddlers through eighth grade

You can also use the stories you wrote using the story cards and cubes and share them with friends and family!

MAKE A READING NOOK

Small or large, having a space in your home that’s designated for reading can encourage a love of books. Turn a closet or corner into a reading nook with some pillows, blankets, and stacks of books! If you don’t have books of your own, visit your local library periodically to borrow a selection, or print out some of the books linked to above.

Make a Summer Bucket List

Summer is here! Take advantage of the warm weather and school-free days to have some extra fun!

Whether your kids will be hanging around the house or spending their days and weeks at camp, summer can be a magical time. No school can mean laid-back days or evenings, extra family time, and an added dose of fun. But how does your family want to spend the summer?

One way to maximize your time together is to create a summer bucket list. A bucket list is just a list of things you want to do – and anything goes! To start, gather your family together and explain how you want to have as much fun as possible this summer. Then ask what they would like to do. Keep a list of all their suggestions, even if they won’t make it onto the final bucket list. Be sure to get everyone’s opinions. It’s important that all family members get a say, so they can enjoy their summer, too!

To ensure you don’t break the bank, challenge your family to come up with as many things as possible that are free or close to it. Use the website for ideas or inspiration, or let your imagination run wild. Throw out some free ideas as suggestions – watch a sunset, catch fireflies, dance in the rain, etc. Items can take place outside or inside, alone or as a family, at home or away. Maybe there’s a local event that you always attend, such as a fireworks show or concert series. Perhaps there’s a lake nearby that you like to visit as a family, or something new you’ve always wanted to try. Or maybe you just want to try playing as many board games as possible.

Once all of the suggestions have been compiled, discuss them as a family. Which ones really sound like fun? Which ones could actually happen? Review your options and decide which ones should be on your final summer bucket list. Once you have your final list, write everything on a large piece of paper and post the paper where everyone can see it. Use it as motivation to take advantage of free time (and as inspiration for those “I’m bored!” moments!). Check items off as you’ve completed them.

I’ve included a sample summer bucket list below. I do not know where this graphic originally came from, but you can use it to get ideas or as an example of what I’m referring to. Personalize it to suit your family’s personalities. There is no “right” or “wrong” list of activities. Just have fun and enjoy your time together!

Throw an Impromptu Party

You may be asking yourself how a party could possibly be free. Well, if it’s the kind of party that’s thrown together using things you already have on hand, and the celebration is just an excuse to have fun, it totally can be!

AN EXCUSE TO CELEBRATE

It doesn’t need to be someone’s birthday to have a party. Make up a reason to celebrate. It’s Tuesday! It’s sunny! It’s raining! Your favorite team won a game! It’s all of your un-birthdays!

Once you’ve decided on a theme, roll with it. Celebrating Tuesday? See how many ways you can incorporate the number “2” in your planning (so you can celebrate Twos-day, get it? Yes, total dad joke! lol). Celebrating the weather? Incorporate suns or raindrops. For winning a game, add sports paraphernalia. For un-birthdays, use any leftover “Happy Birthday” supplies you may have hanging around.

Look around your home and see what you have that can be easily used for the party. Then it’s time to get creative and move on to the next step.

THE DECORATIONS

Decide which room(s) you’ll be using for the party, then go to town making it festive. Unless you’re hoping for the party to be a surprise, get the kids involved in making or finding items to use as decorations. These can be as simple as large pictures that get hung up, banners spelling out the reason for the party (a few sheets of paper taped together to make a long chain), coordinating toys that can be placed strategically around the room, etc. Don’t overthink it – just have fun! (Hint: this step can be helpful in keeping the kids busy while you work on other preparations, such as food!)

Feel free to use up any odds and ends you may have floating around from previous birthdays, etc. You can also make things as simple as cutting up paper into little pieces to make confetti! Keep it colorful and fun, and the kids (and you!) will enjoy themselves.

THE GAMES

What’s a party without activities? You can utilize any family favorite board games or other activities, or more traditional party games, such as musical chairs. Want some inspiration? Here are a few sites with lists to get you started:

Interested in a pinata but worried about the cost? There are ways to make your own! Then you can fill it with goodies you already have at home – put to use those little toys that end up everywhere or small treats you have floating around your kitchen. Or you can even incorporate 2 activities into one, and hide clues for a scavenger hunt inside the pinata instead of treats! Here are some homemade pinata ideas:

THE FOOD

Party food can be simple or elaborate, and the choice is really up to you. The party can be an excuse to make someone’s favorite meal, or it can be an easy way to use up leftovers! A favorite in my family is to set up a buffet with simple appetizer-style foods, so everyone can try a little of everything, and everyone will find something they enjoy (and you don’t have to worry about preparing a full meal). Evaluate what you have on hand and see how you can make it fun. Remember, this is impromptu and free, so don’t plan on going grocery shopping!

Even if the food isn’t exciting, the presentation can be. Mix and match plates, add pops of color to the table, or serve things in an interesting way (maybe serve spaghetti out of mugs? arrange food into shapes on the plate?). If possible, incorporate the theme to make it fun. Celebrating Twos-day? Give everyone 2 of everything on plates. Celebrating a sunny day? Only serve yellow food!

THE GUESTS

Your impromptu party can be just for your family, or you can invite a few friends over to add to the festivities. If you invite guests, just make sure they understand the purpose of the party – no gifts, no over-the-top activities. Just enjoy each other’s company and have fun!

What will your family celebrate?

Create a Challenge

Does your family enjoy games and puzzles? Put together your own using the ideas below!

SCAVENGER HUNTS

The simplest games can often be the most fun, and scavenger hunts certainly fall into this category. You can have your children search for just about anything, and you can make it as easy or challenging as you want. Last month I shared some nature scavenger hunt ideas that can make nature walks and hikes more fun. You can take those same ideas and apply them to inside spaces, as well. Can your child find certain colors? Textures? Shapes?

You can take things one step further by hiding items for your child to find. Depending on your child’s age, you can leave them only partially hidden, or you can make them ridiculously difficult to find, kind of like an Easter egg hunt. For an added game, you can give your child clues they have to solve to determine an item’s location. To make it more challenging, have these clues written in a secret code. Here are some ideas to help with creating coded messages:

MAKE YOUR OWN ESCAPE ROOM

Escape rooms have been really popular, and you can create your very own escape room in your home. Yes, you can buy kits or purchase a bunch of fancy locks and spy gear, but you can also just use items you already have. Pick a room, determine an objective, then design clues and challenges that the participants have to solve to meet the objective! It can take a bit of time and effort, but it’s worth it for the fun factor. Here are some websites that can give you ideas, tips, and inspiration for creating your own escape room:

SOLVE A MYSTERY

A simpler option to escape rooms, without sacrificing fun, is to create a mystery game. You can use the secret code sites above to design clues, modify some of the escape room ideas, or use some of the other ideas below. Tweens, teens, and adults would enjoy the murder mystery ideas, but they do usually require a larger group of people (6+).

DESIGN YOUR OWN BOARD GAME OR PUZZLE

While the ideas above mostly require the activities to be set up beforehand, for the kids to participate, these ideas can get the kids involved. Have them create their own board game or puzzle!

Creating a puzzle is quite simple. You just need a picture that you can cut up and put back together. For best results, glue the picture onto a piece of light cardboard (like a cereal box) and let dry before cutting. Puzzles can be simple, with the picture cut into strips to be reassembled, or complicated with intricate pieces to fit together.

For a board game the sky’s the limit! Here are some sites to get you started:

What challenges would your family enjoy?

Do More With Less

Studies and experience have shown that having less options when it comes to toys, etc. actually makes kids happier. So have more fun with less!

To learn more about this concept, check out the following articles:

In a nutshell, having too many items can distract and overwhelm kids, so they actually spend less time playing. You can counteract this effect by giving them less options. But that can be easier said than done! The “6 Tips” article above gives you some suggestions on ways to minimize clutter to benefit your kids (and your sanity!). Toy rotations, getting rid of things, and avoiding new purchases are just a few ways to cut back. Here are more ways to have fun with less stuff.

FOCUS ON EXPERIENCES

Instead of relying on stuff to entertain your child, look for ways to encourage more doing. Some suggestions, which I’ve discussed in previous posts, include enjoying nature, playing pretend, and creating. You can also explore the Events calendar and tabs on the website for more ideas. Interacting with others, especially parents and other loved ones, can make positive memories that will last much longer than toys. You can also take the experiences concept one step further, and encourage kids to do things with other people in mind – through volunteering, helping others, and looking for ways to make other people happy.

Get your child involved in coming up with experience ideas. Ask them what they would enjoy doing, if they didn’t have any toys to play with or screens to stare at. Encourage them to think back to happy times. Which memories stand out? Can you incorporate those ideas into new activities and experiences? Have each family member come up with things they would love to try, then take turns implementing them. You may be surprised at what is really meaningful for your child!

ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY

A cluttered space can lead to a cluttered mind – which can inhibit creativity. Instead, clear a space and set out a few things that can encourage creativity. Last time I mentioned creating supply trays. This not only keeps a space neat and tidy but can also help spark ideas, as everything your child needs is at hand. Take things one step further by creating with your child. Suggest a theme or style, and see how each of you interprets the idea. Challenge each other to step out of your comfort zone with something you haven’t tried before, or to make something extremely simple or overly complicated. This can be with arts and crafts supplies, building bricks, or even recipe ingredients! Some ideas:

  • Have a “mystery bag” with supplies that must be used in your creation.
  • Write random words on scraps of paper, then draw one to see the topic.
  • Grab a handful of random items and see what you can create with them.
  • Set a timer and see what you can make in the time limit – the shorter the time, the wackier the creations! (But, also, the more creative and interesting)

CREATE EVENTS

Make the items you have more exciting, and encourage kids to look at them in a different way, by creating “events.” Maybe you implement a weekly game night to use those board games that have been collecting dust. Or challenge your children to create a “party” using as few items as possible – with games, decorations, and projects. Make a backwards day, where everything has to be used in a different way than it was originally intended. (Maybe that dinosaur figure is now a princess? Or that doll’s chair is now a hat?)

Doing more with less is not a new concept, but you can take it to new heights with a little imagination and encouragement. How much fun can you have using as few items as possible?